Chaos Knights Codex Review – LoW: Knight Tyrant

Hey everyone, Danny from TFG Radio here, and today, let’s talk about the biggest bad in the Chaos Knight codex, the Knight Tyrant! Sure, maybe the glory days of the Castellan are just a not so fond memory, but maybe throwing one down with spikes isn’t so bad.  If you want even more awesome content, be sure to check out Frontline’s Tactics Corner!

Primary Weapons:

  • Conflagration Cannon – Range 18” Heavy 3d6 S7 AP-2 D2. Automatically hits the target.  (Must be paired with Thundercoil Harpoon)
  • Thundercoil Harpoon –  Range 12” Heavy 1 S16 AP-6 D10. When attacking a Vehicle/Monster, you can reroll the hit. When resolving the attack, if a saving throw is failed, the target takes an additional d3 mortal wounds.
  • Plasma Decimator – STANDARD – Range 48” Heavy 2d6 S7 AP-3 D1  (Must be paired with Volcano Lance)
  • SUPERCHARGE – Range 48” Heavy 2d6 S8 AP-3 D2. Each hit roll of 1 deals 1 mortal wound to the Tyrant.
  • Volcano Lance – Range 80”Heavy D6 S14 AP-5 D3d3.  You may reroll wounds against a Titanic unit.
  • Titanic Feet – S8 AP-2 Dd3 melee weapon. Make 3 attack rolls per attack.

Carapace Weapons:         

  • Twin Siegebreaker Cannons – Range 48” Heavy 2d3 S7 AP-1 Dd3
  • Shieldbreaker Missiles – Range 48” Heavy 1 S10 AP-4 Dd6.  One use each, and may only use one missile per shooting activation. You cannot take invulnerable saves against this weapon.

Minor Weapons:

  • Twin Meltagun – Range 12” Assault 2 S8 AP-4 Dd6.  When resolving an attack within half range, roll 2d6s and discard one of the results for damage.

So here we have the Big, Bad Leroy Brown of the codex, the Tyrant, and well, there are only two options here, but both do fill very different roles.

First and most recognizable is the “Castellan” version, namely Plasma Decimator and Volcano Lance.  There was a time, not long ago, when the Imperial version of this beast was on damn near every table, and well, there’s a good reason.  The Castellan offers insane anti-tank that also can do some work against hordes thanks to the large amount of shots that it can produce.   The Volcano Cannon will annihilate just about anything that it gets a piece of thanks to 3d3 damage, which makes it far more reliable than say a las-cannon while also having a huge spike potential. The Plasma does work to against lighter targets, but if you overload it, it can do good damage against most vehicles that aren’t in the top of the weight class.  Don’t forget the Siegebreaker cannons which add just that much more dakka.  On average dice, you are putting out 3.5 big shots, 7 plasma shots, 6 siegebreaker shots (if you take 2) at anything within 48”.  That’s not bad at all, and well, if you roll well, you could be putting out even more shots.  Throw this on a T8 model with a 5++ and 28 wounds, and you have a hard target to kill at that range.  While only WS 4+ when healthy, it can still put on the dancing shoes too if hard-pressed in the late game.   If you want ranged AT, the Castellan Tyrant is good at filling that roll, and at the height of the Raven Castellan, there were plenty of vehicles that were essentially ushered off the stage of competitive 40k by it, and while the Tyrant isn’t going to do that either, it is also not be underestimated.

Ambition does matter here in some ways.  Iconoclast doesn’t add much on the surface, but it adds far more useful stratagems to spend on the Castellan, and still, 15 attacks at WS4+ is better than 12. Iconoclast also opens up the precious 4++ relic, which shouldn’t be ignored on such a beefy and expensive model that you have to protect.  Vow of Dominance is important in some matchups where you need to ensure that your Castellan is going to survive if you go second.  Infernal is an interesting choice because it allows you to do several things: fire the plasma decimator at its over-charged profile without worrying about the 1s (which can be useful if firing against a unit with a lot of negatives attached to it) or going full balls to walls by empowering the overcharged profile for S9 D3 shots, which can shred just about anything.  You can also go to T9 to be even more of a tank as suddenly melta and bright lances are wounding on 5s and Lascannons are only wounding on 4s.  That can definitely be worth d3 wounds.  If you are trying to be cheeky, even empowering a shieldbreaker missile can make sure that are killing a 5 wound character on about average dice.

While Chaos does not get the awesomeness that is House Raven, some stratagems do matter, namely Trail of Destruction.  Getting to reroll all hits when on average, you are putting out 16.5 shots per turn (not including melta or a missile) can get you a lot of mileage out of these big guns, and it definitely makes overcharging the plasma much safer.  Unless you are throwing it on a Double Gatling Despoiler, for CP-to-primary-shot efficiency, the Castellan is the best mileage there.  Rotate Ion Shield is as a standby, but at 3 CP, it is definitely pricey, so it is often better to keep the Castellan back to avoid how much heat it is really taking.  There is always Demonic Guidance, which is expensive and niche, but being able to murder a support character behind enemy lines is huge, especially against Orks or other Chaos.  That really is the thing, the Tyrant is really the only “sniper” that Chaos has, and a quite limited one at that.  Still, being able to murder Ahirman or the Super Shokk Attack Gun Big Mek on turn 1 can instantly swing the dynamic of the game.  If you are Iconoclast, Vow of Dominance is certainly not to be ignored to make sure that you are as safe as possible (and a 4++, only wounded on 4s) Tyrant can be hard to shift, but Vow of Carnage can make a Castellan a melee beast in the later rounds when going against hordes, and Vow of Beastslayer is right up your alley as well if you are going against more hard targets.  If Infernal, Pact with the Dark Gods can be funny as hell to get back up when you go down, especially paired with Bind the Souls of the Defeated to get back some wounds in melee, but it sounds much cooler on paper than actually in game.  Ion Aegis can be useful for the Castellan if you have a chaff line protecting it, and you need to make sure they live longer than perhaps they should, but it really is dependent on the rest of the army around you.  Spiteful Demise can always do work, giving you a 75% of blowing up, but as the Castellan is often in the back, that may hurt you more than your opponent.

Dreadblading is always a tough choice here as depending on your ambition, you are going to want some relics. If Infernal, Blasphemous Engine is money as your opponent has to get you down to 3 wounds before you are ever on your last profile, and even to tier you once, they have to do 24 wounds. This really does ensure that the Big Guns are firing at full efficiency until the model is damn near dead.  If Iconoclast, obviously the Veil of Medrengard is great for a 4++ without spending CP.   If you are not going that route, then Dreadblade could work as this Anti-tank machine loves Path to Glory for gunning down Magnus/Mortarion or other Knights.  Galvanized Hull isn’t bad either as ignoring AP-1 can help keep you from taking chip damage, and Daemonic Vigor also helps. Getting +2 movement makes you just a bit more agile, getting WS 3+ makes you actually respectable in combat, and of course, if you get the money, BS 2+ is awesome.   Dreadblade is risky but workable, particularly if you decide to give the Castellan the Helm of Warp Sight (which doesn’t care about being a Dreadblade) so you ignore all negative modifiers at range with guns that will murder planes and when overcharged (or empowered Infernal) will reap a heavy toll on Plaguebearers.  The relics here are key because the Castellan wants one, whether it be something to boost its defense or the Helm of Get-Rekt-Flyer.

So why haven’t you seen lists with this big boy yet? Well, the Castellan-Tyrant is expensive as all hell, and if you want it to have an Ambition, you are spending over a 1,000 points at minimum.  That’s just a lot of resources in a single basket, which really, really limits what else you can do with your list.  A Castellan and 2 War Dogs can do work, but can it do half your army’s work? Maybe, but you become very susceptible to alpha strike lists that can kill a Castellan on Turn 1.  If you lose a 700 point model on Turn 1 before it does anything, that is a huge hole to dig out of for just about any player (except Brandon Grant).  It is also a platform that has a lot of RNG built in, without the ability to mitigate it like House Raven that made the Imperial Castellan so dominant.  If you roll a 1 or a 2 on your shots, sorry, that’s life.  If you roll a bunch of 1s for damage, that’s how it goes.  Chaos Knights in general can very much rely on swing, and the Castellan Tyrant is no different.  Trail of Destruction helps with the reroll to hits, but still, rerolling 1 Volcano shot or 4 plasma shots isn’t that sweet.  You can save points by giving up the Ambition trait, but then you are spending CPs to get a relic, and the Castellan-Tyrant likes a relic.  Overall, this is very much an “eggs in one basket” situation, which just opens you up to getting seized on or running into a bad, bad matchup.


So what about the other one, with the big ol harpoon and flamer? The Valiant Tyrant is a cheaper, much more niche model, but it does offer plays that you might not get elsewhere.  First, the super-soaker flamer is a murder machine against anything T6 and below that relies on negative modifiers to survive.  On just about average dice, a Valiant Tyrant will murder a flyer with the flamer, and if you get lucky with the harpoon, maybe 2.  The Flamer will do damage to just about anything except T8, but one of its big strengths is that it is a beast to charge.  Unless you innately ignore overwatch or can find an angle to charge out of Line of Sight, charging the Valiant means taking 3d6 S7 hits.  This makes the Valiant a great meta choice if you are running up against a lot of fast assault elements or Genestealer Cult. GSC especially doesn’t want to see a Valiant as the flamer-bomb is not going to do much to it, and acolytes or abberants have to be wary of that many auto-hits on the charge.  That doesn’t mean a Valiant auto-wins, but it becomes a big piece of leverage in the game.  The Harpoon is the height of hilarity, and I’ll admit, I love playing with the Valiant because it is so damn fun, and when that Harpoon hits, it is sweet. If you hit and wound, you kill a 12 wound vehicle 50% of the time in a single hit.  That’s always funny, and even in overwatch, a vehicle charging you has a 20% chance to take the Harpoon in overwatch alongside the flamer.  The Valiant can do a lot of damage, and it is a 100 points cheaper, actually sub 600 if you take 4 missiles instead of 2 siegebreakers.  I can actually see this build if you do a few things.  If you Dreadblade a Valiant in its own Iconoclast Auxiliary, you don’t get the Ambition, but you do get access to Vows, and you can take the Rune for a 5++ all the time and an extra Pact/Damnation.  This gives you some flexibility, allowing you to go pure offensive (Daemonic Vigor and Path to Glory) or a little more defensive (Galvanized Hull + whatever). The flamer doesn’t care about modifiers, and you have a strong, forward threat that isn’t the easy thing to kill, and if you are running say Spikey 17 and a Daemon Battalion, suddenly you have a lot of CPs, and with 4 missiles, (especially if you take Path to Glory), you can be sniping characters for 4 straight turns.  That’s hilarious.  Is it good? Probably not, but then, in the current meta, being able to snipe out important characters is huge to dealing with several builds, and Shieldbreakers are also the best way to put early wounds on other Knights.  That said, you are spending all your CP that way too. It would be a fun build, but not necessarily a good one.

Ambition here does two different things.  Infernal is actually great for the Valiant as empowering the flamer makes it a terrifying monster with S8 and D3.  That kills a lot of targets, especially if you roll above average and get 12-14 hits.  The extra boost to T9 of course isn’t bad for the survivability, and late game, the extra speed matters.  Plus, Infernal opens up that tasty relic where it becomes damn hard to degrade you.  Iconoclast is more about getting those Vows than anything else, but again, 15 stomps is better than 12, and if the Valiant charges in, which it will do more than Castellan simply for the fact that it is a short-ranged attacker, this pays off too.  Either Ambition works well, but it just depends on what you want to do.   If the Valiant is going to sit behind a screen and lay down the flame, then Infernal is likely better, but if you plan to send that Valiant forward to do big damage in as many phases as possible, Iconoclast is the way to go. That said, if you just want a Knight without worrying about ambition, then the Valiant Tyrant is probably one of the better ones to take in an Aux detachment since it is cheap for its statline, it doesn’t need much support unless you are trying to get cute with those missiles, and you don’t need to spend CPs to get it a Warlord trait or a Relic if you don’t want.

Of course, relics can be a thing.  This is one of the only Knights that doesn’t really care about The Helm, but either the Infernal or Iconoclast specific relics are awesome if you don’t Dreadblade. Outside of that, the Rune is great if you are going to Dreadblade since it gives you a 5++ all the time and an extra Pact/Damnation that you choose.  This lets you get up to 3 Pacts, which is nice since you get to choose 1, so if you roll 2 that you don’t need, you will at least get 1 that you want.  A Path to Glory, Galvanized Hull, Daemonic Vigor Valiant sounds ok.  The Nurgle Plate is not a bad choice either as the Valiant wants to be up close, so it will get charged, and being able to reflect back saves in the form of mortal wounds can be sweet.  The Quicksilver throne is also not a bad idea as the extra speed isn’t all that important, but the fighting first in combat is, making the Valiant hard to bring down with 2 or 3 melee characters at once.  With Stratagems, if you are going Infernal, you really aren’t using a lot as you don’t care about reroll hits with your main weapon, but you may want to use Pact with the Dark Gods to get back up because as long as the Valiant is alive, that gun autohits.  That can be big.  With Iconoclast, you definitely want a vow depending on the scenario. If going against hard targets, Vow of Beastslayer, and against hordes, Vow of Carnage for the possibility of the super Valiant that charges in with 20+ stomps, and Vow of Dominance if you are going against a heavy alpha strike list where you need to make sure that your Valiant can weather the storm.   That is another big benefit to the Valiant Tyrant is that it is not as CP hungry as other Knights, although if you are firing off those missiles at characters, then it can get very, very hungry.

So what’s not so great? Well, the fact is that that the Valiant Tyrant really only uses 2 weapons consistently, the flamer and the siegebreaker(s).  12” range is bad, so the Harpoon almost never does what you want it do because a savvy opponent can just stay away.  The flamer has decent threat thanks to a 10” base move, but even then, a flyer on the other side of the board can easily outrange you and start doing damage while you have to run it down.  You are paying a lot of points for a primary weapon that doesn’t really get used most games, and while 600 points is definitely cheaper than 700, you really have to ask yourself if you are losing more in just overall efficiency.  A Helm’d Castellan Tyrant is just as much a threat to flyers and other units as a Valiant, but with a much bigger threat range where it becomes far harder to hide, and the Castellan gets to use its 2 main guns.   The Valiant is still 600 points, so while it is probably one of the best Knights to not care about Ambition, if you want Ambitions, you are spending a little over 900 points to get it, and that’s just a ton of your army bolted into 3 models.    There’s also the reality that a DubBC or DubGat with Helm is probably better than the Valiant and 100 points cheaper.

So, in the end, the Tyrants provide a lot of big, big threat, but they are also provide your opponent with a priority target.  With their point cost, losing the Tyrant early is typically the start to a long slide down.

Castellan-Tyrant – 70/100. Just barely competitive as it still has enough raw punch to nuke a lot of the vehicles out there, yet it will likely only work on its own with a lot of board control around it. Against any high range, high powered armies, it will die too early to really win you the game on its own.

Valiant-Tyrant –60 (80)/100.  Yes, 2 scores. The Valiant is awesome in some matchups, but on average, subpar. While cheaper, the Valiant just does not have the threat projection to really be a better choice than another Knight, either a Despoiler or a Castellan-Tyrant (or a Forgeworld Knight). It is fun as hell to play though, and against certain matchups, it can be way more insane than it appears, but only in some matchups. That said, if your meta is right for it, the Valiant could surprise folk.

Thanks as always for reading, and next, we’ll look at a Knight that doesn’t have multiple variants, so at least that one will be shorter. Hey, don’t forget about SoCal Open, which isn’t that far away. I hope to see some of you there.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!




About Danny Ruiz

Long-long time 40K player, one of the original triumvirate of head 40K judges at LVO, writer, educator, tyranid-enthusiast, disciple of Angron, man about town, afflicted with faction ADD.

One Response to “Chaos Knights Codex Review – LoW: Knight Tyrant”

  1. Jeremiah September 9, 2019 5:20 am #

    Tyrants can’t take the helm

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